Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Week of Movie Watching

The Petrified Forest – A quiet roadside diner is taken over by a bunch of murderous gangsters. This is mainly notable for being the film that launched Humphrey Bogart to stardom. Bogie had played the role of lead bad guy Duke Mantee on stage, and star Leslie Howard lobbied hard to have him on board when the play was made into a film. Apparently, Bogart modelled his dour villain on John Dillinger, and he’s easily the most memorable thing in this. The main engine of the film is the dynamic between Bogarts sullen resignation and the blowsy intellectualism of Howard's Alan Squire. Bette Davis is also here as a waitress who falls hard for Howard. PF has some interesting ideas, but falls a bit short for me due to some embarrassingly bad supporting players, including a dim football player, and an old drunk. Moderately interesting, but not quite recommendable.

Mr. Arkadin (aka Confidential Report) – Orson Welles lost control of this 1955 drama, and thus there was never a definitive version released. A reclusive billionaire (Welles) hires a small time con man and smuggler (Robert Arden) to investigate his past, in hopes of uncovering lost memories. Arkadin is dense and confusing, as Arden encounters one bizarre character after another (who always seem to end up dead), and although I sometimes was fuzzy on who I was watching, my attention never wavered. Welles pulled out on the stops on his visual presentation here, and that’s what makes the film worth a watch. Arkadin is kitted out in an outrageous beard, and usually shot in daunting close-ups and unsettling tilted shots, giving him a Mephisto-like presence. Not a perfect film, but an interesting one. Recommended.


Ursula Andress